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1574: Bechukosai

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

May 31, 2019 - 26 Iyyar, 5779

1574: Bechukosai

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  1573: Behar1575: Bamidbar  

The River Flows  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

The River Flows

by Dovid YB Kaufmann obm

Rivers fascinate. And rivers are like thoughts. Not the other way around, as we'll discuss.

First, some facts about rivers: Rivers always flow downhill. They begin in mountains or, paradoxically, spring from underground. Rivers begin in hidden places.

And rivers flow in ways we don't usually consider. We see the river flowing in its channel, between its banks. What we don't see is the river flowing beneath the substrate, the bottom of the river. We don't see is the river flowing beneath the ground of its own banks. The area where the water flows between the crevices and rocks is call the hyporheic zone.

Sometimes rivers flow swiftly; sometimes they surge; sometimes they cascade; sometimes they run their course; and sometimes they drift in a lazy rhythm. Sometimes a river is rapid, sometimes it meanders.

Rivers collect rivulets. Rivers change constantly. They change the land through which they flow.

Rivers can erode the land, pulling rocks, soil or vegetation from its land channel and transporting them down stream. And as rivers change the land through which they flow, they change their own course, find new channels in which to flow.

And thoughts: They also flow. They flow "downward," from the inner resources of our minds, from our souls. Thoughts flow downward into speech, and then action. And there is much beneath the flowing thoughts that we don't "see," don't realize is there.

Where do our thoughts come from? For they exist in the "subconscious," in a mental - or spiritual "hyporheic zone" - and emerge into our awareness. Thoughts spring from hidden resources of mind and soul, cascading from the higher "mountains" or emerging from the underground "springs."

Sometimes thoughts flow swiftly, like rapids, chaotic. Sometimes, thoughts overwhelm us, so that we are awed by what has appeared in our minds - like watching a cascading waterfall. Our thoughts cut deep channels into the "landscape" of our being, creating the canyons and flood plains of our interactions and reactions.

And our thoughts can change course. They do find new channels. Sometimes the change is rapid; sometimes the change meanders. But our thoughts are redirected - by our experiences, yet also by our conscious choices: we can gather the rivulets and carve out the canyons - the deep commitments - and flood plains - the actions with which we engage and transform the world.

Rivers have long been a symbol of life. But when they overflow their banks, they can wipe out all that has flowed from and through them, all the life that depends on them. Thoughts, too, give life. But when they overflow their "banks," when our thoughts overflow with negative character traits and destructive emotions, our thoughts can destroy all that depends on us - all those who depend on us.

We can control our thoughts, re-channel them, give them a new course to follow. For Will - our soul-directed desire - is higher than thought. No, it's not easy. Rivers are stubborn things. They have their passages. They are conduits - and they narrow. After all, "narrows" refers to a channel connecting two bodies of water.

Still, just as G-d directs rivers, we direct our thoughts. And that's why rivers resemble thoughts, not the other way around - even though we make the analogy the other way around.

How flows your river?

Inspired by a discourse by Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Bechukotai, we read that the Jewish people will confess their sins and their fathers' sins. In the next verse we read that G-d will bring them into the land of their enemies. It would seem that after we admit our wrongdoings, G-d should take us to the Promised Land!

What is the purpose of taking us to the land of our enemies, especially? What good does admitting our mistakes do for us? And what lesson can we learn and apply to our lives?

These verses come towards the end of a section that is filled with the consequences for not observing the mitzvot (commandments). The Torah speaks of a time when we commit sins because we stubbornly refuse, of our own free-will, or due to our lack of desire to open our hearts to accept G-d's Torah and mitzvot wholeheartedly. It is only as a result of the suffering we endure that we admit our wrongdoing. It is like saying, "I realize that it wasn't worth doing those things." It is not a wholehearted confession, with the resolve to change. This kind of confession doesn't grant forgiveness. Yet the Torah calls it a confession, so it must have some value.

Speech is powerful, the words we say have an effect on the people who hear them and on the one speaking. In the case of confession, after repenting and making a commitment not to do it again, it helps to say it out loud, as your words will add strength to your commitment. Also, when one recognizes that he sinned, putting what he has done into words will cause him to regret what he did.

Even in the above-mentioned case, where the admission is half- hearted, it still has a positive effect. What it does is bring you to the next step.

G-d says, "... and I will bring them into the land of their enemies." The key words here are, "and I will bring them," meaning that now G-d will be more involved. It's good that G-d will be involved because G-d will send his prophets to bring us closer to Him. This will bring us to true remorse, and forgiveness.

This all came to pass during the times of the Babylonian Exile, when G-d brought us back to the land of Israel for the Second Temple Era. However, when Moshiach comes we will repent and immediately be redeemed. This is because, we will return to G-d of our own free will, and not because the pressure of the exile.

This is true in our relationships as well. When you do something wrong, the best thing is to admit your wrongdoing, commit to change your ways, and to ask for forgiveness. But for some, this pill may be too hard to swallow, either because of stubbornness or some other reason. This is when admitting that it wasn't worth it becomes a stepping stone, to rebuilding the relationship. Working on it together, with guidance, you will only get closer and earn forgiveness.

It is my hope, that soon we will experience returning to G-d of our own free will, and immediately be redeemed.

Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.

A Slice of Life

The Antidote to Narcissism
by Rabbi Peretz Chein

The Cheins established the Chabad House at Brandeis University in 2001.

When Chanie and I married, 19 years ago, we were committed to living our lives together and raising our future family as Shluchim (emissaries) of the Rebbe. In simpler terms that meant to be wholly dedicated to positively impact the lives of individuals and the world. It also meant to do it on our own and without institutional support. In other words, alongside being fully focused on enriching people's lives, we'd be fully dependent on the generosity of others to operate, live, and raise our family.

Needing to continuously ask people for financial support has been enlightening as it's a window into their soul. In the immortal words of the 2nd century Talmudic sage Rabbi Ilai, "A person is recognized by his wallet." Over the years I've seen a lot. I've been inspired, moved, as well as disappointed and hurt - though ninety percent the former. But what I observed from my conversation with a young alumnus, recorded in our latest podcast, was a new level of brilliance and inspiration.

Most recent graduates from college begin their career by opening a bank account to deposit their earnings. Noah opened an additional bank account, this one dedicated to depositing what he planned to give away. Ten percent of his after tax earnings, as meager as it was, would be deposited there.

A prudent investor does not simply drop money into an enterprise, instead they also invest their skills and talents ensuring that the enterprise succeeds with the maximum ROI (Return on Investment). This is what Noah has done from his earliest days out of college with his 'tithing account'. Not only does he give money, but more importantly he devotes his time, skills and talents to causes he supports.

He calls it philanthropy and believes everyone can be a philanthropist regardless of their financial resources. In fact he promises that if you simply begin you will find yourself wanting to do more and more. That's what happened to him.

Philanthropy is generally associated with individuals who have so much money that giving it away is the most reasonable thing to do, not to mention the honor and influence it provides. Noah has redefined a philanthropist to mean investing of oneself in a cause, which everyone can do.

By giving this topic significant thought and living by its creed at a relatively young age, Noah is a unicorn. He combines humility, confidence, and selflessness; muscles that are built by resisting narcissism through investing in others - making it the perfect antidote to narcissism.

The Cheins host a podcast series A New Conversation with Chanie & Peretz, authentic conversations on a variety of topics which in turn empower listeners, especially students and young adults, to think critically and thoughtfully, and grow to become better people. What follows is a summary of the podcast Students and Giving; Our Responsibility written by Chanie Chein.

Peretz: This past week we re-introduced our students to a concept we developed a few years back, inviting them to become Shareholders of Chabad at Brandeis at $10 a month. Becoming a Shareholder is a lot more than a financial gift, it's a statement of value and partnership.

Judaism teaches that there are three parts to connecting. To understand (Torah), to feel (Tefillah), and to give (Tzedakah). It's through the act of giving away something that belongs to and can be used for oneself, which achieves a connection that understanding and feeling alone cannot accomplish.

Chanie: This is not about giving back though, which is the immediate knee jerk reaction students have, "You've given me so much, I'll give you back." Tit for tat. Rather it's about valuing something by giving something up for it.

Disclaimer: This is not intended for those who have a very limited budget for their basic necessities. Thankfully though most students at Brandeis are able to spend money on pleasures, like movies, eating out, hosting meals or joining Greek life.

Students think along the lines of what provides them with immediate happiness and pleasure. It's in this light that many also view Chabad; remembering the good times and memories they've had, and there are plenty. They will also continue to rave about Chabad as alumni.

What's lost here is the engagement with Chabad in a thoughtful and mature manner. Thinking about what is Chabad's impact on me, what real value, beyond fun and good times, did Chabad have on me? The $10 a month stimulates this type of thinking.

Peretz: If it was about raising money for Chabad there are far more effective ways to spend our time raising even more significant funds. Instead, inviting students to join as Shareholders is about our responsibility as educators to our students, teaching them to develop their "thinking", "valuing" and "giving" muscles.

Chanie: A lot of students absorb in college, and even earlier, the message of how they are going to accomplish amazing things in the world. But for that you need an amazing character, which happens through one's personal development, efforts, and at times, giving (up) of oneself. A mistaken assumption is that character development is magically achieved over four years, but in fact it's not. Not at all.

So that even when students receive an income (which is a sentiment we hear often as to why they're not currently giving as students) there's no guarantee that they will become givers, after all, their expenses only increase.

Peretz: Being a giver needs to occur in all areas of life, not isolated to finances. It's what creates a mensch, what being human and, even more, being Jewish is about. It's what brings to us and the people in our intimate orbit, much harmony, happiness, and purpose.

For some it's easier, for others it's harder, but for all it's a choice. To be a giver or not to be a giver.

As educators we won't shirk from our responsibility to teach it.

What's New

Permanent Home for Chabad

Chabad of Cole Valley, California, near the University of California in S. Francisco, has a permanent home! Under the leadership of Rabbi Nosson and Chaya Potash, the former Jubilee Montessori preschool will be transformed into a Chabad House with an event space, offices, and Jewish daycare/preschool.

Bat Mitzvah Club Ladies' Edition

For the past decade, Mrs. Sara Jaffe of Chabad of Whitefield - Manchester, England, has held yearly events to celebrate the passage of Bat Mitzva age girls to adulthood. This year for the first time, there was also a group of mature women who participated in the Ba Mitzva Club - Ladies Edition program. Ranging in age from 45-82, only one of these women had actually marked her Bat Mitzva at age 12.

The Rebbe Writes

18th of Adar II, 5725 [1965]

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter. I will remember you in prayer, as requested, in connection with the matters about which you write, and may G-d grant that they should be resolved in a way that is truly good for you. For the Jew this is possible only when things are in harmony with his Divine soul, in which case there is complete harmony, inasmuch as the "animal" soul will submit to the Divine soul in accordance with the ultimate design of the Creator. However, it is impossible that the Divine soul should acquiesce to the animal soul since this is counter to the design of the Creator, Who commanded the human being to be master of his nature and not subservient to it.

I trust that you had an enjoyable and inspiring Purim and may the joy and inspiration of Purim carry over into all your activities every day of the year. May it do so in the spirit of Purim in the words of the Megillah, "For the Jews there was Light, Joy, Gladness and Honor" both in the plain sense of these words as well as our Sages interpreted them "Light- this is Torah..... Honor- this is Tefillin. "Thereby they emphasize to us once again that the material and spiritual go hand in hand together for the Jew.

With blessing,

P.S. Now for your question on the problem of the middah [character trait] of humility and the like, wherein every Jew is required to make an effort to cultivate that trait and attain the highest possible degree of humility. The question is, How is it possible for a person to attain true humility if he is consciously striving for it? For if he is aware of having accomplished it, this would in itself be in conflict with true humility.

No doubt you know of the well known question relating to the final paragraph of the Gemoro Sotoh wherein we find the statement by Rav Yosef: "Don't say 'humility is gone,' for I am here!" A similar difficulty, though not quite identical, appears in the words of the Torah that Moshe was "more humble than any man on the face of the earth." Is it possible that Moshe Rbbeinu, who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and who received the Torah on Mount Sinai and who built the Mishkon, was the leader of all the Jewish people, etc., yet considered himself more humble than any man on the face of the earth?

The explanation is found at length in the teachings of the Alter Rebbe. The main point may briefly and simply be summarized as follows: Moshe Rabbenu indeed felt very humble, because he was certain that anyone else with powers and gifts which G-d had bestowed upon him, including such a great soul and such fine upbringing as he had, etc., would have accomplished a great deal more than he. Indeed, Moshe Rebbenu was able to cite many arguments in support of this feeling of his.

The same explanation will provide a solution to your question. To be humble does not mean to deny one's qualities and accomplishments. For humility must obviously go together with honesty, and in fact, the more honest a person is, the greater is the degree of humility expected of him. True humility means that the person should realize that whatever he has accomplished and whatever he possesses, are not due exclusively to his own efforts and powers; he only contributed a small share of it, and any other person on the face of the earth could accomplish a great deal more if the same abilities and opportunities were given to him.

I trust that you are active in spreading Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your environment. No doubt you took advantage of the opportunity to disseminate the idea of Shalach monos and gifts to the poor which we recently observed. Although these are easy mitzvos to fulfill, they are unfortunately very neglected. I trust that you will also take full advantage of the coming festival of Pesach.

All Together

YIRMIYAHU means "G-d will raise up." Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) was one of the greatest prophets in Israel. He is especially known as the prophet who foretold the destruction of the First Holy Temple.

YERUSHA means "inheritance." Yerusha was the wife of King Uziah of Judah (II Chronicles 17:1) and the mother of King Yotam.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

This Tuesday is the first day of the month of Sivan. On this day over 3,300 years ago, the Jewish people came to the wilderness of the Sinai desert and encamped there ready to receive the Torah.

The Torah tells us about their encampment and the second time the word is used, it is in the singular form in Hebrew, though speaking about all of the Jews.

The singular form of the verb is used because the Jewish people were united as one - "like one person with one heart" our Sages tell us. And it was precisely this unity that prepared and allowed the Jewish people to receive the Torah and experience the revelation of G-dliness on Mount Sinai.

The unity of the Jewish people preceded the revelation of the Torah. Uniting and unifying our people today can and should be a preparation for the Final Redemption when we will have the ultimate revelation of the goodness and holiness of every single Jew.

The Rebbe expressed this concept in a talk a number of years ago. "The Redemption will unify all of Israel, from the greatest to the smallest. For not a single Jew will remain in exile: 'You, the Children of Israel, will be gathered in one by one.' Moreover, the multitudes who will then be gathered in are referred to in the singular: 'A great congregation will return - in the singular - here.'

"In preparation for this state, therefore, one should make every endeavor to unify all Jews, in a spirit of the love of a fellow Jew, and of the unity of all Israel."

There are times when arguments are waged for the sake of Heaven and many great things are thereby attained. But for the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai there had to be unity of the Jewish people. And as a preparation for the revelation of the Torah Chadasha - new and deeper Torah which will be revealed in the Messianic Era - we would do well to heed the Rebbe's words and work towards unity and love of all Jews.

Thoughts that Count

And they shall stumble one over the other, as before the sword, without one pursuing (Lev. 26:37)

"One will stumble over the sin of another," comments Rashi, "as all Jews are guarantors (arevim) for each other." The Hebrew word for guarantor has the same root as the word for sweetness and pleasantness. Every Jew must look upon his brother and fellow guarantor with a kindly eye and seek what is good and worthy in his neighbor. The same Hebrew root also implies intermingling one with the other. Every Jew is part of the greater whole of the Jewish nation.

(The Rebbe)

And you shall eat your bread to the full, and you shall dwell in safety in your land (Lev. 26:5)

Economic hardship causes strife among brothers. Unethical competition in business leads one to snatch a crust of bread from another's mouth. G-d therefore promised that all Jews will have enough to eat, they will "dwell in safety in the land," and peace will reign.

(Arono Shel Yosef)

If you walk in My statutes (Lev. 26:3)

The Baal Shem Tov taught that a person must never become settled in his habits and fixed in his ways, for G-d's laws are meant to be "walked in." The service of G-d should never be static, but should lead us to higher and higher levels of sanctity.

(Keter Shem Tov)

I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham I will remember. And I will remember the Land, (Lev. 26:42)

The Patriarchs are not mentioned in chronological order in this verse, but rather in the order of the attributes and eras they personified. After the Torah was given, the Jews entered the era of Torah, personified by Jacob who was the pillar of Torah. When the Holy Temple was built they entered the era of "service" and Isaac embodied the attribute of service. And these last generations of the era before Moshiach are connected to Abraham who was the epitome of loving-kindness. The Baal Shem Tov explained that now, in the final era before Moshiach, emphasis must be placed on deeds of kindness to hasten the Redemption.

(Rabbi Ben Tzion of Bobov)

Why does the Torah mention the covenant with our ancestors in connection to the Land of Israel? The Talmud teaches that the merit of our Patriarchs stands us in good stead only within Israel; in exile we do not have this merit. G-d promises, however, that when He remembers the Land of Israel He will be reminded of this merit as well.

(Maklo Shel Aharon)

It Once Happened

Reb Eliezer Lippman and his wife, Mirush, were unusually hospitable people. Weary travelers, hungry beggars, and itinerant rabbis were never turned away from their home. They were known far and wide for their kindness toward the masses of poor people who sought them out. And, in those days especially, the number of poor people who needed to rely on the kindness of their brethren was seemingly limitless.

Reb Eliezer and Mirush's boundless hospitality did not go unnoticed in the Heavens. Certainly their lavish performance of the mitzva of hospitality deserved a great reward. A discussion ensued as to how best to reward the couple. But then the Adversary stepped up and commented: "What they are doing is not really so difficult. They do not go without in order to feed their guests. And what of their guests? So, some of them are poor and dressed in rags. A bit disheveled or even smelly. What of it? Would they treat a repulsive beggar with as much kindness and care as anyone else?" questioned the Adversary with a smile.

It was decided that Reb Eliezer and Mirush would be tested. If they passed this test, their reward would be even more sublime.

Days later, a leper knocked on the door of Reb Eliezer and Mirush. Not registering even the slightest amount of shock, Mirush smiled at the leper and invited him in. "But everyone else just gives me food or money at the door and waits for me to leave," the leper informed Mirush. "It is not necessary for me to come inside. I know what I look like." And the leper proceeded to point to his many open, oozing sores, his clothes hanging onto his scabs like a second skin, his matted hair and beard.

"I have not bathed for months. No one can stand to help me and I cannot do it alone," he said quietly, ashamed of the horrific odor he carried with him everywhere.

"Please do come inside," Mirush offered as she opened the door wide for him. The leper warily entered. Mirush led him to the kitchen where she prepared warm, nourishing food. Then she informed the leper that she insisted he stay in their home until he was healed.

From then on, every morning and evening, Mirush applied special creams to the leper's sores. Days passed and the leper's open sores began to heal. As his skin improved, carefully and skillfully, Mirush peeled off the ragged clothing which had been sticking to his body. As soon as possible, Mirush bathed the leper and presented him with a new set of clothing.

Over the next few weeks, the leper continued to improve. When he was fully recovered, Mirush and Reb Eliezer encouraged him to stay a little longer until he had totally regained his strength. When he was finally ready to leave they gave him some money, and Reb Eliezer accompanied him part of the way.

When they were about to part, the guest said to Reb Eliezer, "In the merit of the kindness and hospitality you show toward every person, including a leprous beggar like myself, you and your wife will raise children who will be righteous tzadikim." And with that, he walked away.

Until that time, Reb Eliezer and Mirush's three sons were not known to be exceptional scholars. In fact, they had not even been able to keep up with the studies of their peers. But from that time forth, their children began to excel in Torah learning, performance of mitzvot and in the refinement of their personality. Two of their sons, Reb Zusia of Anipoli and Reb Elimelech of Lyzhansk were amongst the greatest disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and great Rebbes in their own right.

Moshiach Matters

In the days of Mashiach, by contrast, a man's divine service will be engraved within him through and through. And when the Torah thus constitutes a man's entire essence, it permeates and acts upon all his faculties and affairs; indeed, on everything in the world. At that time, therefore, there will be no interval between one's action and the growth it engenders. Rather, the flow of Divine beneficence will be bestowed immediately, for materiality will be utterly united with its root and source - the Word of G-d.

(Likutei Sichot, Shabbat Parshat Behar-Bechukotai, 5751 [1991])

  1573: Behar1575: Bamidbar  
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